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Are The Wild Improving At Possession?

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The notion that the Wild were a terrible team on a lucky streak was met with an incredulous response not seen since...last year. And the year before that.

The evidence I set forth was simple - the Wild were the worst team in the league at shot generation (possession) and by a large margin. Their goaltending was outplaying their talent level by a significant margin and was the reason for their hot start. Eventually that goaltending will collapse and the Wild will revert to results befitting a team of their underlying numbers.

The key for Wild fans, and for interested observers, is how many points the Wild could bank during the lucky streak -- would it be enough points to get them into the playoffs once they started playing like a .410 team like the Avs before them, or would they collapse fully like the Stars last season?

The bulk of Wild fans (I did get one non-hatemail from a Wild fan asking for additional information on the topic) took affront to the notion that their team was one of the worst in the league simply riding a lucky streak. One of the key areas of disagreement seems to be the idea of team improvement at possession.

Though we know 30 games is enough to get a sense of the true talent of a team, Wild fans seem to believe significant improvement is possible beyond that. If the Wild are improving at the possession metrics, we should see some progression in the numbers. The table below contains the key possession numbers broken down by season segment.

Fenwick Close Corsi Close Fenwick Tied Corsi Tied
Games 1-10 0.455 0.439 0.465 0.458
Games 11-20 0.435 0.418 0.359 0.366
Games 21-30 0.436 0.425 0.408 0.405
Games 31-35 0.439 0.416 0.454 0.425
Season 0.443 0.425 0.424 0.415

Note that there is no significant improvement in any segment in any category. Some Wild fans have already taken to the crutch of injury to explain their recent five-game losing streak, but the last five games have actually seen a slight improvement in their possession numbers. Remember, for a team with a talent level in the range of their Fenwick tied, the Wild have a 1/8 chance of losing all five games in any five game segment of the season.

But what of goaltending? Observers noted the Wild's early save percentages weren't sustainable over the length of the season. Below is the tied and close save percentage by segment.

ES Sv Pct Close ES Sv Pct Tied
Games 1-10 0.966 0.963
Games 11-20 0.966 0.951
Games 21-30 0.931 0.852
Games 31-35 0.945 0.953
Season 0.952 0.936

As expected, the save percentage is slowly regressing back towards sustainable levels, detailed in the chart below, showing the tied and close save percentage before and after the game against Edmonton in late November.

ES Sv Pct Close ES Sv Pct Tied
Before Edm 0.964 0.951
Since Edm 0.938 0.918

Soak in these numbers. If the Wild goaltenders were to perform at the "Since Edm" levels over the course of a season and they maintained a sub-.450 Fenwick, the Wild would be the worst team in the NHL, and by possession, they still are.

So the question still remains - have the Wild banked enough points through this lucky streak to hang on and make the playoffs once the slide kicks in fully?

*Data courtesy the terrifying Vic Ferrari and